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“The Mobile God Who Plants His People”

July 8, 2012 2Samuel 7:1-17


Life doesn’t come with many guarantees. Troubles disappoint us; sickness thwarts us; breakdowns in equipment and in relationships frustrate us. The older one gets, the more you realize how fragile life is. We start to look for options that will provide any measure of security in surroundings that are fraught with crumbling and chaos.

    Some years ago I bought an inexpensive yard trimmer or “weed-eater”; I used it only a few hours each season. But this year I couldn’t get it to run properly without choke, no matter what I tried. I even took the carburetor apart and cleaned it and put it back together, but it ran just as poorly as before. I took it to the small engine repairman but when he explained his shop rate was $48/hr, I bequeathed the old trimmer to him for parts. I asked if there were any brands he’d recommend from a service point of view; one of them, “Stihl”, I was familiar with from a reliable chainsaw my father’d had.

    Upon arriving at Huron Tractor, I discovered their Stihl trimmers were on sale. Not many days after I returned and bought their bottom-of-the-line model. When I went to pay for it, the dealer explained that if I bought a 6-pack of the manufacturer’s brand of 2-stroke engine oil at time of purchase, the company would double the warranty period from 1 year to 2 years. Considering I’d sooner or later be buying such oil anyway, I jumped at the opportunity! My experience with the previous trimmer was fresh in my mind; anything that would guarantee a longer period of ‘coverage’ was most welcome, and would provide an extra degree of security and peace-of-mind.

    There aren’t many guarantees in life. But when King David had an impulse to do something for God (so he thought), the Lord instead surprised him by covenanting or guaranteeing to do something for David, to secure his dynasty or reign. Our scripture lessons shows us that God’s main concern is caring for and protecting His people; He assures us of that by warranting or covenanting His involvement and unconditional love.


Our story takes place around the last decade of King David’s reign, after 980 BC. We get that from the fact that King Hiram of Tyre supplied the cedar for David’s palace, and he didn’t become king until that date. So, it’s well on in David’s reign (at least 30 years), and the Lord has given David rest from all his enemies as v1 says. Now, David gets to thinking, and has a commendable impulse to do something for God. In v2, as he comments to the prophet Nathan, he’s struck by the fact that he gets to live in a beautiful cedar palace while God’s ark, the ark of the covenant, is just housed in a tent - the tabernacle, as it had been ever since the Hebrews gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai back in Exodus. Pagan nations had sacred temples to house their idols; shouldn’t Israel’s God also deserve at least as much?

    But the next morning, the prophet shows up with news for the king. V5,  “This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?” There are a couple of aspects here - (a) are YOU the one, and (b) to build Me a house to dwell in. Let’s take (b) first.

    Concerning the supposed NEED for God’s ark to have a house to dwell in – God reveals it’s NOT at the top of His priority list. Vv6-7,  “I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day.I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"”

    This is in sharp contrast to the way pagan nations honoured their gods. Samson died destroying the temple of the god of the Philistines at Gaza in Judges 16. That same Philistine god, Dagon, clearly had a temple also at Ashdod in 1Samuel 5 (where the ark of God engaged it in a little ‘showdown’). That was just automatic, understood – an idol deserved a temple to house it, to honour it.

    But Israel’s God keeps bursting out beyond people’s expectations. As the Lord states, He’s quite used to moving about in a tent; not once had he asked the rulers why they hadn’t built a wooden house for Him. God is dynamic, portable, on the move. He won’t be confined by our demands or expectations. After the exile to Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel has a fascinating vision of God’s throne literally flying above several sets of wheels, like some marvelous floating hovercraft. Coming to the New Testament, John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” – literally “tabernacled among us”: the words would have reminded John’s readers of the Tent of Meeting in the Old Testament. So Jesus as a human is presented as God’s habitation: the Lord’s not dwelling in bricks and mortar, but in flesh and blood, the body of His incarnate Son.

    Later in John 4(21ff) Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that soon the place to worship the Father would be at neither the mountain nearby nor in Jerusalem; “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth...God is spirit...”

    Then a bit later Paul writes to the church at Corinth (3:16), “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?” And he says to individuals (6:19), “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is IN you, whom you have received from God?” Clearly the Biblical emphasis is quite different from pagan notions that put their ‘god in a box’ with special buildings.

    Given that our own congregation is currently ‘between’ meeting spaces, this can be reassuring OR a source of consternation. Reassuring to hear God say that having a fixed place of worship isn’t at the top of His priority list; hopeful since the New Testament emphasizes that BELIEVERS are God’s walking, breathing temples. A source of consternation for those of us used to thinking in more conventional terms, that church is the ‘place you go’ on Sundays, a building with four walls, a visible marker in the community. Yet the Bible suggests WE are meant to be the markers, the witnesses, living stones. In that sense church always OUGHT to be ‘on the move’. The church is PEOPLE, whom Jesus died to save – He didn’t give His life for wooden or brick buildings.

    The other issue in Nathan’s prophecy was about David not being the one to build a house for God. Other passages suggest reasons for this. In 1Kings 5:3 Solomon says it was because David was preoccupied waging wars from all sides. In 1Chronicles 28:3 David states God told him, “You are not to build a house for My Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.” Likewise, 22:8,  “But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars.You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.” It seems David has committed so much slaughter it’s not appropriate for him to build a temple. By contrast, 22:9 continues,  “But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side.His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.” The temple-builder would be associated with peace, not war and bloodshed.

    What about us? Is there any violence or defilement in our lives that could block God from being “at home” with us? We need to confess our sins, receive Christ’s peace, and practice that peace with others. Emerson Eggerichs wrote Love and Respect which is the resource for our upcoming retreat. He describes a husband who came for counseling about problems with his prayer life. Eggerich’s first question was, “How are you getting along with your wife?” The man thought he didn’t hear him correctly, saying it was “prayer LIFE” that was the problem not his wife. But Eggerichs asked the same question again. When we’re not at peace with our wives, that disrupts our fellowship with God. 1Peter 3:7,  “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” In order to have the welcome mat out for God to dwell with you, practice peace not war with others.


David’s well-meaning impulse to build a house for God’s ark is declined, but the Lord offers a very gracious response: v11,  “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you...” God is about to bless David WAY beyond David’s initial impulse. You can’t outgive God!

    The next few verses contain a majorly important covenant that stands prominently above much of the bulk of scripture like mountains over a landscape, alongside God’s covenants to Noah, Abram, and the priests. Its impact stretches from David’s time right through our own until Jesus returns to set up His millennial kingdom. Note the 15 instances of “I will” or “I have” etc in verses 8-16 – all that God has done already or will do for David. V8, “I took you..to be ruler...” V9 “I have been with you...I have cut off all your enemies...I will make your name great...” V10 “I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them...” V11 “I will also give you rest from your enemies...The Lord Himself will establish a house for you.” V12 “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you...I will establish His kingdom...” V13 “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 14 “I will be his father and he will be my son.” 15 “My love will never be taken away from him...” 16 “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” Hear the emphasis, God’s purposing to do good for David and his successors, on and on? “I will...I will...I will...”

    God is giving David a huge gift here, incredible security, the guarantee of God’s undying love throughout many generations. When Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph, legally he was a descendant of David, born in Bethlehem the town where David had come from. God keeps His promises! His covenant must have blessed David with a sense of great support and security - a guarantee of God’s unending care and sustaining through all the crises and calamities of life.

    What about us – do we have any such covenant to enjoy? The Bible we read and believe contains the “New Testament” or “New Covenant”. It’s called that because of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 26:28 referring to the cup of the Lord’s Supper:  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The author of the letter to the Hebrews shows how this is superior to the Old Testament or covenant: “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant...Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance— now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 7:22, 9:15) Do you sense the strength of the language there – that God is GUARANTEEING new and better things for you, an eternal inheritance, because of what Jesus accomplished for you at the cross, forgiving your sins?

    David’s bloodiness as a warrior defiled him to some degree, preventing him from building a temple. Jesus’ blood on the other hand purifies us, cleans us up from our transgressions and guilt, makes us fit to become habitations for God to indwell by His Holy Spirit. Jesus’ blood is purifying, atoning, precious!


By the subject matter of His covenant to David, God reveals what’s really at the top of His priority list – since we know by now it’s not a building to house the ark of the covenant. There’s a hint in v7, “their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel...” And v8, “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel.” Shepherding the flock – caring for my people.

    This is at the heart of what God intends to do in the future: v10,  “And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed.Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning...” The eternal spirit-being God may be mobile, portable, but He knows we mortals need a place to be planted, shelter and protection. He knows that sinful people will continually disturb and oppress others without rulers to protect the poor and vulnerable. In short, PEOPLE are at the top of God’s priority list – people for whom He longs to provide care and justice and loving leadership.

    We see this borne out in the New Testament. What does Jesus package with the “Greatest Commandment” of loving God with all our heart soul mind and strength? “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mt 22:39) If you’re going to love God, you’ve got to love what’s pressing on God’s heart – other people! What does James consider religion that’s not worthless?  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jas 1:17) How does the apostle Paul wrap up his great tract of Christian freedom to the church at Galatia?  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Ga 6:10) Get people on your heart! And the apostle John questions how God’s love can possibly be in a person who has material possessions and sees their brother or sister in need but has no pity on them. To him, loving actions are “how we know that we belong to the truth” – that our religion is real, not just empty talk. (1Jn 3:17ff)

    Caring for other people is the ‘proof of the pudding’ in Christianity. Paul notes  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1Tim 5:8)


God’s covenant to David starts out by addressing just how a temple will be built by David’s son, but takes off from there to a vision well into the future. It becomes the nub of the Messianic hope for Jews. Vv12-13,  “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name...” That much applied directly to Solomon, who did indeed build a wonderful temple according to the plans David drew up for it. But do you see the word “forever” at the end of v13? Here and in v16 God’s plan starts taking off beyond Solomon, after the collapse of Jerusalem under Babylon and the exile, to the Messiah who is to come and who would yet be David’s ‘offspring’:  “...I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever...Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” In fact, Hebrews 1:5 applies the words of v14 directly to Jesus: “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.”

    Kingdom, house, and throne are key words in God’s guarantee to David. In Luke 1(32f) the angel Gabriel uses these very terms to describe to Mary just who the infant is she will carry and give birth to: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

    To Jesus and His disciples, the kingdom of God wasn’t some “pie in the sky by and by” but a present reality to be announced and demonstrated urgently. Mark 1:15, Jesus’ opening lines: “The time has come...The kingdom of God is near.Repent and believe the good news!” He saw His ministry of miracles as PROOF that God’s Kingdom had arrived in power. Matthew 12(28), “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

    You who believe are inheritors of this Kingdom. We should expect to see God’s activity in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has made you to BE “a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father” (Rev 1:6, 5:10). The essence of Christianity is not erecting religious buildings but a living relationship with your Heavenly Father, to experience God’s involvement and directing in your life. V14,  “I will be his father, and he will be my son.When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men...” When God disciplines you, He’s loving you as a dear son or daughter (Heb 12:5ff). But trusting Jesus means you always have God’s guarantee of His unconditional love. V15, “But my love will never be taken away from him...” Jesus gave us His promise in Matthew 28(20),  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That’s a great guarantee!

    The author of Hebrews points out the great benefits that result from God’s loving discipline, tough and painful as it may be sometimes: “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:10-11) Righteousness and peace – sounds like what God told David He yearned for for His people!


David started out with an idea for a finite project - constructing a temple to house God’s ark. But the Lord exploded David’s small plans with a vision of a covenant that would extend through the centuries, through the Messiah, to bless many millions of people.

    The pagan or conventional view of religion puts god (one’s idol, really) in a box - construct a temple, insert your idol, check it off the list. Even as Christians we can fall into the ‘god-in-a-box’ trap by compartmentalizing life: church life over here in one corner, hermetically sealed off from my social life with friends or what I watch on TV or the net: that’s a different ‘space’, and never the two worlds meet. But Jesus seeks to be Lord of all our boxes, invited into every compartment.

    David’s warrior activities somehow disqualified him from being the one to build a house for God. Today one area that defiles Christians is pornography. In a May 2008 survey of Americans, the Barna organization found that 12% of evangelicals view pornography. Jesus said,  “The eye is the lamp of the body.If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Mt 6:22-23) Are we taking good care of our body, our ‘temple’, by what we let in through the eye-gate? Are we experiencing God’s Kingdom strength and overcoming power in the area of sexual purity, or do we set ourselves up for defeat by our poor choices?

    John Piper was speaking to a singles gathering about fighting sexual temptation, and he’s written about “Battling the Unbelief of Lust”. He encourages believers to get a big view of God, rather than relying on a list of how-tos when it comes to fighting sin. Nathan’s prophecy must have blown David’s view of God out of the water with the vastness of goodness and love the Lord sought to lavish on His servant.

    Piper refers to an article in Leadership magazine from 1982 in which a pastor who’d been struggling with pornography for ten years found freedom. The key was coming to want God’s GOODNESS more than anything else. The pastor writes, “The way to fight lust is to feed faith with the knowledge of an irresistibly glorious God.” He’d been reading a novel by Francois Mauriac which stated that there is one powerful reason to seek purity, the one Christ gave in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The article went on: “...here was a description of what I was missing by continuing to harbor lust: I was limiting my own intimacy with God.The love he offers is so transcendent and possessing that it requires our faculties to be purified and cleansed before we can possibly contain it.Could he, in fact, substitute another thirst and another hunger for the one I had never filled? Would Living Water somehow quench lust? That was the gamble of faith.”

    Faith opens the door to covenant – to God’s guarantee of relationship with Him and an eternal future with hope, not shame. A relationship through Christ in which we submit to God’s discipline and so come to realize how unconditional God’s love is; then His discipline produces within us a harvest of righteousness and peace, able to care for other people who are on His heart, true “temples” living for and serving Him. Let’s pray.